Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café

Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café is the product of almost two decades of restaurant experience and innovative thinking from a single pioneer family- the Madrazo family.

Background and History

adela-melvyn.jpgIn the early 1990’s, Melvyn Madrazo Sr., a Cuban-born American citizen, had the idea to open a restaurant which served rotisserie chicken prepared both Cuban-style and Mexican-style. After discussing the idea with his wife and children, the beginning of a long-term family collaboration began.

The Madrazo family business evolution began with the creation of Los Pollos, a restaurant which was opened in the early 1990’s. The Madrazos created a unique marinade which contained both Mexican seasonings and Cuban citrus style mojo. It was this Madrazo marinade which formed the signature dish at Los Pollos. From the outset, Melvyn’s vast experience as part owner and vice president of production for a large emblem manufacturing business with over 300 employees served the family business well.

Los Pollos was a success, and growth was soon to follow with the opening of a second restaurant in 1995 in East Los Angeles (Los Pollos #2) and a third, which opened in 1997 in the city of Downey (Los Pollos #3) and 2006 (Tropicana Chicken in Bell Gardens). The operation evolved from a single store to multiple-unit operators.

A Family Collaboration

Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café was created in 1999 and is owned and operated by the Madrazo Family, including Melvyn Sr. (father), Adela (mother), Michael (son), Albert (son), and Melvyn Jr. (son). Each family member has contributed in their own unique way to the design, implementation, and operation of Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Cafe’s sweet tradition.

The family vision was to create a bakery/café based on four fundamentals:

  1. Offer traditional Cuban, Mexican, European-influenced, and other Latin American sweets in a premium quality
  2. Offer traditional Cuban, Mexican, European-influenced, and other Latin American coffees and beverages
  3. Provide a clean pleasant ambiance
  4. Provide friendly service.

The collective Madrazo idea also included recreating an authentic traditional Latin experience in an American-modern setting. The parents had the vision of the tradition, and the children had the vision of the American modern setting.

For inspiration, Melvyn Sr. remembers growing up in his father’s “cafeteria and pasteleria”. He recalls childhood memories of his grandfather working with flour, baking the Cuban bread, making Cuban pastries and serving Cuban espresso. According to Mr. Madrazo, Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café is like returning to his childhood.

However, Tropicana is more than just a Cuban bakery/Café. The other aspect is directly related to Adela, who is originally from Mexico and fondly remembers drinking Mexican hot chocolate with her pan dulce. The tradition of gathering with the family in a clean and orderly hacienda and having a social moment to enjoy Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce is a special memory that she wanted to recreate. Both Melvyn Sr. and Adela introduced traditional recipes from their respective native homelands.

The children, raised in a Cuban/Mexican home setting, enjoyed both Cuban and Mexican cuisines, and they also enjoyed fusing those two backgrounds. For example, Michael, Al, and Melvyn, enjoyed drinking Mexican hot chocolate and Cuban espresso- a fusion of both cultures in one drink which has become a popular signature drink at Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café. They also enjoy putting jalapeno peppers in their Cuban sandwiches. So when it came time to design the menu for the bakery/café, their parents introduced traditional recipes, and the children offered recipes which are a fusion of both traditions.

The Best Of All Worlds “Fusion” is an underlying theme throughout Tropicana Bakery & Cuban Café. The décor juxtaposes Latin and modern influences; sleek design is accented with rustic touches; and the lively atmosphere is filled with the sounds of tropical Cuban music. Service is prompt and cordial, and patrons often meet to socialize over Cuban espresso based drinks and pastelitos. The Madrazo family brings their collective memories of their respective native Cuba and Mexico; their collective thoughts about their present lives in California and how the USA will look and taste in the future.